Local election victory for Marine Le Pen's National Front raises fears on both left and right

Mainstream groups concerned that National Front could gain more regional council seats

As straws in the wind go, a victory for the Far Right in a council by-election in the south of France might not appear too menacing.

All the same, mainstream parties of both right and left were examining with alarm on Monday the small print of the triumph of Marine Le Pen’s National Front in a re-run local election at the weekend in Var, near Toulon.

A former boxer, Laurent Lopez, won a seat on the department (county) council in the canton of Brignoles with 53.9 per cent, in a run-off against a candidate of the main centre-right opposition party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). Both left-wing candidates and another far-right candidate had been eliminated in the first round the previous Sunday.

The area, although traditionally communist-run, has given substantial votes to the far right in the past. On this occasion, however, Mr Lopez scored more votes than the NF has ever won in the area.

Appeals by left-wing leaders in Paris for a “Republican” front to block the NF and elect the centre-right candidate were heeded by some left-leaning voters. Many others failed to vote, or cast spoiled ballots, in protest against high unemployment and the cautious economic policies of the Socialist President, François Hollande.

There was a sharp increase in the turn-out between rounds but many of the new voters supported the NF. National political commentators said the result in Brignoles suggested that swing or “protest” voters were turning away not just from the left but also away from the UMP, the “natural” or mainstream opposition party of the right.

The outcome confirmed a swing towards the National Front in recent nationwide opinion polls. The polls suggest that the National Front could win more seats, and towns, than ever before in municipal elections next March and could top a nationwide poll for the first time in the European elections in May.

Ms Le Pen, the NF’s leader, said the result of Sunday’s local election should be treated with caution, then immediately threw caution to the winds.

“This augurs a desire in France for change,” she said.  “It says that the people of France are going to express themselves and to mobilise. It augurs towns won [by the NF] and hundreds of council seats, maybe thousands, won (in the municipal elections in March).”

She may yet come to regret setting the bar for NF success so high. A survey by the newspaper Le Monde at the weekend found that her efforts to “de-demonise” and clean up the party she inherited from her father, Jean-Marie, had not been matched by re-organisation at grass-roots level. With less than six months to go before the municipal elections, the NF was in a position to field candidates in only one town in six, Le Monde said.

The result in Brignoles was nonetheless a stark warning to the “traditional” ruling parties of right and left – and perhaps especially for the centre-right. The main centre-right party, the UMP, is bitterly divided on how to respond to the rise of the NF since Ms Le Pen took over in 2011.

Some UMP politicians have pushed for alliances with the NF at local level against the left. Others, such as the former president Nicolas Sarkozy, have borrowed NF themes and language. Others warn that any rapprochement with the NF will be ruinous for the centre-right.

Local left-wing politicians in Var put much of the blame for the NF’s success on the unpopularity of Mr Hollande. But they also said many local voters no longer saw much difference between the attitudes and campaign language of the NF and the UMP.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone